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North Fayette County Municipal Authority asks help from state officials to resolve DEP fines

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The North Fayette County Municipal Authority decided this week to ask state Sen. Richard Kasunic, and state Rep. Deberah Kula, both Democrats representing Fayette County, to assist the authority in resolving $2,500 in fines imposed recently by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP has fined the authority for violating the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act.

Bob Softcheck, authority manager, received a letter dated Jan. 11 from Paul Vogel, environmental compliance specialist for the state's Bureau of Safe Drinking Water.

In the letter, Vogel notified Softcheck that the authority violated the act and DEP's regulations by constructing and/or operating multiple facilities without the required public water supply permits.

The law provides that DEP may assess a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per day for each separate offense, according to Vogel's letter.

Based on information available to DEP, Vogel stated that the authority is subject to a civil penalty of $2,500.

He indicated that DEP may change the potential penalty after considering “culpability, speed and effectiveness of compliance, diligence, unforeseen circumstances, and other factors brought to the department's attention.”

DEP said the authority may request a meeting to discuss the final assessment for these violations within 15 days.

“If you do not contact us within 15 days, we will proceed to issue a final assessment based on the information available at that time,” Vogel stated in his letter.

In response to Vogel's letter, Softcheck wrote a letter to DEP's Pittsburgh office, requesting a 15-day extension to determine which direction the authority will take on the issue.

“The authority may decide to meet with the DEP to discuss the final assessment or a decision may be made to agree to the consent order,” Softcheck stated in his letter. “If the authority decides to abide by the consent order, the authority would not have enough time to execute a check for the amount stipulated of $2,500 by Jan. 24.”

Authority members agreed to try to schedule a meeting with Kasunic and Kula to see if they could help the authority resolve the violations.

“I think we need to get our state senators and state representatives involved in this issue,” said authority member Phil Mahoney.

Softcheck explained that the violations occurred when permits were not properly executed for two projects in Lower Tyrone Township and Mount Braddock in North Union Township.

“Two different engineering contractors were involved in those projects,” Softcheck said.

Softcheck explained that Widmer Engineering of Connellsville was involved in the Lower Tyrone Township project. Fayette Engineering of Uniontown performed engineering work at Mount Braddock in North Union Township.

DEP also imposed fines on the authority for permit violations at nine booster station projects, dating back as long as 30 years.

“We don't understand why DEP is involving projects that were completed three decades ago,” Softcheck. “The authority needs to find out what's going on.”

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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